West Kingston Commsission of Enquiry: “I wasn’t born yesterday!”

It’s part of the posturing of people in responsible positions to give the impression that all with which one is involved is as it should be. Nothing is wrong. Perfect foresight. Flawless execution. Not a bad apple in sight. Well, it just so happens that this week we had a vivid reminder that is such utter hogwash, as FIFA officials were arrested and charged with corruption. Suddenly, many officials who’d previously professed innocence and saintliness are ready to set off an ‘avalanche’ of dirt on all and sundry.

Jamaica’s police force is known to be corrupt. Just today, I read SSP McGregor, who’s just moved to St. James from West Kingston, to deal with escalating crime there, lamenting such a fact with regard to facilitating lottery scams. He talked about how it’s likely that police are also involved in scamming.

While some bad apples may not rot the barrel, a lot of taint gets onto the crop.

The police also have a bad reputation for ‘extra judicial’ killings, in part based on findings by Amnesty International, as well as ongoing INDECOM cases against so-called ‘death squads’. When this reputation was touched on, during the enquiry, we heard a lot of answers that were pure denial. Though DCP Blake let loose that “it’s declining”, which was at least acknowledging the problem.

So, in giving testimony it’s been interesting to watch if and how the JCF deal with these issues of character.

In general, the senior officers have put up what I’d call the ‘politically correct’ performance. No disrespect to any of them, but the story doesn’t hold together well given all the supposed planning. It’s clear that communication within the JCF and between them and the JDF was not as good as it could have been. Much seems to have left to the ‘good training’, but also many assumed connections that did not seem to happen. There did not seem to be much cross-verificaton and establishment of key facts as events unfolded, e.g. people found dead, but no personal details sought; multiple allegations of police brutality but no single report by a police officer of any complaint or misdeed. That gap is too wide to be comfortable.

This week we heard from several DCP and ACP level officers. Now, I’d understand that they’d find some of the questions tedious, and not just because the lawyers are trying to probe as if totally unfamiliar with procedures. But, some of the replies have sounded a little over-dramatic. Maybe, men were shooting from trees, but to say that they were fought back successfully without ever admitting to seeing anyone fall to the ground or even utter an “Argh, he got me!”?

Earlier this week, the Commission chair got frustrated with the stance of the police respondents and told one he was “being evasive”.

Today, the session ended with another seeming admonition. ACP Graham (in charge of on-the-ground operations) was asked if the police made errors. He chose to reply that the police were trained to not make errors. That did It. Sir David asked him if in his 20 plus years of service he’d ever known of errors. He admitted he did know of such. “Let’s leave it there,” said Sir David, tapping his fingers as if to say “You cheeky little whippersnapper. Do I look like this is my first rodeo?”
The chairman could be excused for being a tad ‘up to here’, after a politician had demanded he apologize for a disclosure in the enquiry yesterday. Sir David refused. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy and the enquiry has seen more of that this session.

It’s on break till late month. Other JCF witnesses may come and also JDF officers. I think the chair gave a clear sign that he’s not into much foolishness. He was a chief justice. He knows politicians and political processes well, having been a Cabinet minister. He’s no infant in a nappy.